Lesson 8 - The Church at Philadelphia

Lesson 8 - The Church at Philadelphia

(Revelation 3:7-12)

The sixth church to which Christ sent a message was in Philadelphia.  Philadelphia was about 28 miles from Sardis and it was the wine center of the region with numerous vineyards for making wine.  The city had been rebuilt after a massive earthquake destroyed it in A.D. 17.  After the destruction, Philadelphia continued to suffer economically and never regained any prominence in the region.  There was obviously a Jewish population in this city as evidenced by the references to “the key of David” in verse 7 and the “Jews” in verse 9.  Pagan worship was also prevalent here.

Jesus began by describing Himself as “He Who is the Holy One and He Who is the True One, He that holds the key of David and He that opens and no man can shut and He that shuts and no man can open.”  The first two designations are attributes of Christ – holy and true. 

The Holy One in Greek is “ho hagios,” which is a title for the Messiah throughout the New Testament. (Mark 1:24; Luke 1:35, 4:34; John 6:69; Acts 4:27,30; I John 2:20)  “Hagios” means holy, free from defilement, pure or set apart.  As Messiah Jesus Christ was pure and undefiled in His nature as deity, and in His nature as humanity, the two being united in One Person forever.  Jesus Christ was set apart to God to accomplish the Father’s plan, purpose and will.  He was reminding the believers in Philadelphia Who was sending them a message. 

The True One in Greek is “ho alethinos,” meaning the ideal One, the real One or the genuine One.  Elsewhere in the Scriptures Jesus Christ is called the true God, Him who is true, O Lord holy and true, and Lord God Almighty, holy and true.  (I John 5:20; Revelation 6:10, 15:3)  “Alethinos” means genuine or trustworthy.  Jesus Christ is the embodiment of absolute truth.  He is the real truth and can always be trusted unconditionally.  As an attribute, He is truth and cannot lie.  He is the true Messiah, not a fake.

Jesus also said that He held the key of David.  Jesus Christ said that He held the key to entrance into the Messianic kingdom.  Obviously, this was a message to the Jews who were attempting to influence this group of believers.  Jesus reminds the believers that He is the genuine, real Messiah.  This was apparently contrary to what the local Jews believed and taught.  The Jews believed that they had access to the kingdom (perhaps because they were Jews by birth) and rejected Jesus as Messiah.  (Isaiah 22:22)  Only Messiah can open the door to the kingdom or keep it shut.  Opening the door is analogous to God’s sovereign will that no one perish.  Actually, Jesus Himself is the door.  (John 10:7-9)

Jesus said He knew the works of these believers and had put an open door before them.  The open door must have been the door of opportunity to minister to those within the city of Philadelphia and beyond. Knowing their works is a reference to Christ’s omniscience, and He then gave them a word of encouragement.  Jesus made three observations about their works.  First, “you have little power” meaning they must rely upon God’s strength in order to take advantage of the “open door.”  Second, they had kept His Word, a reference to Bible doctrine residence in their souls and being applied in their lives.  Third, they had not denied the name of Christ.  They had remained faithful, relying on God and His Word to sustain them in times of economic downturn and times of persecution. 

The synagogue of Satan referred to the religious Jews who worshipped in the local synagogue, but were unbelievers and pawns of Satan.  They had a “form of Godliness, but denied the power” (in this case the person of Jesus Christ as the Messiah).  (II Timothy 3:5)  The true Jew is the person who trusts Jesus Christ as Savior.  (Romans 9:6-14)  These Jews obviously denied the claim of these believers that Jesus Christ was the Messiah.  Jesus then told them that He would make these religious Jews pay homage to the believers of this local church and they would know that Jesus Christ loved the believers in this church.  We are not given details as to when or how this would take place.

In verse 10 Jesus gave this church a promise based on the fact that they had kept “the word of His patience.”  The promise being that He would keep them from the time of trial that was coming on the earth.  The Greek word for patience is “hypomone” and means endurance.  The “word of Christ’s endurance” in this verse refers to Christ’s endurance during His time of trial and tribulation.  (Hebrews 12:2-3)  In like manner, the believers in Philadelphia had endured the trials of persecution.  The reward for their faithfulness was to be removed from the “hour of trial” that would come upon the earth, a reference to the Tribulation that will follow the Church Age.  It must be pointed out that all Church Age believers will be removed from earth prior to the Tribulation. Notice the wording in this verse regarding the hour of trial – “it will come on all the earth to test those who are on the earth.”

Relying upon God and His promises by the exercise of your faith is the key to endurance under pressure.  Faith-rest is the principle of knowing, believing and applying the promises, the principles and the doctrines of the Word of God. (Isaiah 33:6)  There are over 7,000 promises in the Bible for the believer.  These promises do us no good unless we mix them with faith and apply them to our situation. (Hebrews 4:2)  Claiming these promises eliminates mental attitude sins such as fear, worry and anxiety, which cut off Divine Viewpoint Thinking.  Faith-rest will restore Divine Viewpoint Thinking and stabilize the believer in times of pressure and adversity. (Matthew 11:28-30; Romans 10:17; Hebrews 4:1-3, 12:2; Galatians 5:22-23; I Peter 1:7-9; I John 5:1-5)

Jesus’ soon return was meant to be an encouragement to these believers who were enduring trials of persecution.  Jesus told them to “hold fast” to that which they had, which seems to be a reference to their strong faith in God and their belief in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  The reward was called a crown.   The crown of life is for those who endure tribulation, as these believers were doing. (Revelation 2:10)

A promise was then given to them who overcome.  We have already seen this phrase in the previous chapters and noted that all believers are overcomers.  The promises, however, are different here than in the other passages.  The first promise was that Christ would make them a pillar in the temple of God.  This must be a reference to the stability of the believer who is in Christ. A temple pillar was the strongest and most stable part of the temple and it was used here metaphorically to described the believer’s eternal (stable) relationship with the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  It was a promise of an eternal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  In the New Jerusalem, which comes down from Heaven after the Millennium, there is no temple.  God is said to be the Temple in the New Jerusalem.  (Revelation 21:22)  Therefore, this reference to a temple must also be metaphorical.  The meaning should also be taken as a promise of eternal security.  The overcomer (believer) will dwell with God for all eternity.  The temple was God’s dwelling place on earth in the Holy of Holies and was a good analogy for an eternal dwelling place with God.  Separation from God is impossible once a person believes in Jesus Christ for salvation as evidenced by the phrase, “and he will not possibly go outside any longer.”

Jesus then promised these believers that He would write upon them the name of His God, the name of the New Jerusalem and His new name.  The name of His God speaks once again of the absolute assurance of eternal life by identification with Him. (Numbers 6:27)  The name of the New Jerusalem means the right citizenship and further assurance for the believer.  Finally, Christ’s new name means the Philadelphian believer will be eternally identified with Jesus Christ.  (Revelation 19:12)  The believer is said to be like Christ in a resurrection body for all eternity. (Philippians 3:20-21)  The doctrine of eternal security is the scriptural teaching that once a person becomes a believer in Christ, that person is secure in Christ forever.  (I John 5:13)

There is sound doctrinal reasoning for knowing that a believer is secure forever.  The most important fact to note is that eternal security depends upon God’s faithfulness, not man’s faithfulness.  It is the life of God (eternal life) that He imputes (credits) to every believer at the moment of salvation, which assures him of an eternal relationship with God.  The Bible says that believers are guarded in the “hand of God.”  We are also given a guarantee in the Person of the Holy Spirit, Who indwells every believer.  The Holy Spirit Himself is the seal that secures forever our eternal life.  Since salvation is a grace function and has nothing whatsoever to do with human effort or human merit, losing your salvation through sin would negate God’s grace – a blasphemous thought. (John 10:28-29, 14:16-17; Ephesians 1:13-14)

If a believer could lose his salvation through sin, who is to be the judge of which particular sin cancels his salvation?  If you merely have life until you sin again, then you do not have eternal life.  A lack of understanding or believing in the eternal security of the believer results in lack of confidence in God and His Word.  Assurance of salvation should be dealt with in spiritual childhood and cease to be an issue once a believer has begun to learn and apply Bible doctrine.  Confidence in God (a function of our Royal Priesthood) is obtained by the consistent study and application of God’s Word.  The more doctrine you learn and apply, the more you know about God and the more confident you become in His plan and purpose for you. (Romans 8:38-39; I John 3:21-22)

Once you have gained confidence in your salvation, you can relax, knowing that regardless of what people or circumstances do to you, you are eternally secure in Christ.  This divine viewpoint mental attitude has the result of confidence towards God and courage towards man.  Since you are not trusting any member of the human race, including yourself, to secure your salvation, you can have complete confidence in the “powerful hand of God” to keep you secure forever. (Isaiah 41:10: John 10:28-29)